STILLWATER – Oklahoma State was without Phil Forte and Jawun Evans, both out with injuries. Iowa State didn’t have Jameel McKay, who was suspended. But the Cyclones did have Georges Niang, Matt Thomas and Monte Morris, who combined for 39 second-half points to rally 13th-ranked Iowa State to a 64-59 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon.
The Cyclones have now won six in a row over the Cowboys, including the last three games inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Oklahoma State, losers of four of its last five, saw its record fall to 11-12 overall and 2-8 in Big 12 play. The Cowboys are now 2-8 this season in games decided by five points or less, including five of their eight conference losses. Iowa State breaks a two-game losing skid to improve to 17-6 and 6-4.
"They made a bunch of threes on us in the first half, then once we tightened up on the shooters a little bit they started to drive by us. Our defense got spread out and that led to a lot of lay-ups to start the second half. But we got down 10 or 11 and we came back and took the lead again, so I'm proud of the effort. I told our guys I'm very proud of their effort and competitiveness.
"I thought they really competed, we just didn't have enough against a top-15 team in the country. We played good, but we didn't play great and against a team like Iowa State you have to put together a great game and right now with the situation we're in it's hard to beat a team like that," Ford added.
The Cowboys didn’t look like a team that had lost seven of their last nine in the game’s opening 10 minutes. They jumped out to a 10-0 lead, forcing the Cyclones to miss their first five shots of the game while also turning the ball over five times on their first 10 possessions.
However, Travis Ford’s team only led 12-3 despite Iowa State going 1-for-10 from the field and having seven turnovers in the game’s first 10 minutes. The Cyclones were able to get back in the game, even with Niang (the Big 12’s second-leading scorer) spending a significant amount of time on the bench with two fouls, pulling within 24-22 at halftime.
"It was an ugly first 10 minutes," said Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm. "But you'll watch the tape and George had a couple of threes that you can live with, Monte had a 17-foot pull-up that you can live with, but the last two days is the first time when we really put emphasis on George playing the five, Deonte at the four for a majority of the minutes and so our rhythm wasn't very good.
"The tempo of the game wasn't really good for us, but thank goodness we only gave up 12 points, so we were able to get back. When it was two at half I was really ecstatic inside, but then had to explain the frustrations of we have to get better on offense."
While the Cowboys dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, the tables were reversed after halftime.
Iowa State was nearly unstoppable as the Cyclones made 10-of-14 shots to begin the second half, outscoring the Cowboys 26-11 in the first 10 minutes of the period. After trailing by two at halftime, the Cyclones led 48-35 after two Thomas free throws with 9:59 left to play.
The Cowboys clawed their way back into it and actually took a 55-54 lead on Tavarius Shine’s thre3-pointer with under four minutes to play. But Niang (19.1 points per game, second in the Big 12) and Morris (14.8 ppg, seventh) took over. The two ISU veterans combined to score their team’s final 10 points, including Morris’s two free throws with 13 seconds left to secure the win.
OSU was led by Jeffrey Carroll’s career-high 18 points (on 4-of-7 shooting from behind the arc) and the sophomore from Rowlett, Texas also had a team-best seven rebounds. The only other Cowboy in double figures was Leyton Hammonds with 12.
The Cowboys were playing without Evans, the freshman point guard who is averaging a team-best 12.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. He sat on the bench in street clothes with a shoulder injury.
Niang led the Cyclones with 18 points, while Morris (16), Thomas (16) and Deonte Burton (11) also scored in double figures. The other only Iowa State player to score was Hallice Cook with 3.
OSU returns to action Monday night at TCU. The Cowboys defeated the Horned Frogs 69-48 on Jan. 2.
"Yeah, it’s going to be tough on the road. We will prepare and head on over there. Our team just needs to stick together as we piece this thing together," Ford said.